Linnehan v. Sampson

Decision Date09 May 1879
Citation126 Mass. 506
PartiesThomas Linnehan v. Edward Sampson
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court

Argued November 8, 1878 [Syllabus Material] [Syllabus Material]

Essex. Tort. The declaration alleged that the defendant, on June 2 1877, was the owner of a bull; that the bull was wild and vicious, and it was unsafe to drive or permit the bull to go through any public highway, without his being tied down or secured, so as to prevent injury to any person on the highway, all of which the defendant well knew; that the defendant wrongfully, carelessly and negligently drove the bull, so being wild and vicious, and not properly secured, in a certain highway; and that the bull ran with great violence against the plaintiff, he then being on the highway, and injured him. Answer: 1. A general denial. 2. Contributory negligence.

At the trial in the Superior Court before Brigham, C. J., the plaintiff introduced evidence tending to show that on June 10, 1877, he was walking in Lawrence, when his attention was directed to cries of help on a street at a right angle with the street he was on; that when he turned the corner he saw a man lying on his back in the middle of the road holding a rope attached to a ring in the nose of a bull, and the bull attempting to gore him; that the plaintiff went towards the bull and within a few feet of him, but did not attempt to assist the man whom the bull was trying to gore, because he was afraid of the bull, as he appeared to be dangerous; that the bull, by the detaching of the ring from his nose, escaped from the man holding him and rushed towards the plaintiff, who ran towards the gate of a yard on the side of the street, and while in the act of entering the gate was tossed by the bull into the air, fell senseless on the street, and, while lying there, was gored by the bull, and received the injuries complained of; that the defendant was, at the time, the owner of the bull, and his servant, by his direction, was then leading him through the street, when many persons were walking there.

The only evidence, on the part of the plaintiff, of the dangerous character of the bull, was that afforded by the conduct of the bull at the time of the injury, and its circumstances, and a declaration by the defendant to the plaintiff and his wife, that his servant was careless in leading the bull through the streets, and that he ought to have led him tied behind a wagon, as he had been led on a former occasion.

There was evidence, on the part of the defendant, that the bull was nearly three years old, and small of his age; and that, after he was one year old, he was kept for a year on a farm in New Hampshire, and afterwards, until the day of the plaintiff's injury, on a farm in Methuen, from which, on that day, the defendant's servant was removing him to the defendant's farm in North Andover; that the bull had never exhibited viciousness of disposition, but although when conducted from New Hampshire to Methuen he was tied behind a wagon, yet on the farm where he had been kept he had been managed by a snap-ring fastened in his nostrils by a spring, and attached to a rope, and was tractable when thus managed; and that the defendant had no knowledge of any exhibition of viciousness or dangerousness of the bull before the plaintiff's injury; that, while the servant was leading the bull by the rope, the white dress and red scarf of a girl excited the bull, the servant struck him, and thereupon the bull threw the servant down and was attempting to gore and trample on him, when some person struck the bull, and he rushed forward and leaped over the servant, detaching the snap-ring from his nose as he did so, and pursued and injured the plaintiff; that the man who had the care of the bull at the defendant's farm had found the bull to be gentle, and had never seen anything dangerous or vicious about him, and that with a snap-ring he could lead him like a dog. A snap-ring such as was used in leading the bull on the occasion of the plaintiff's injury, and also a ring of different style, such as is used in managing bulls, and was claimed by the plaintiff to be more adapted to safety, were exhibited to the jury at the trial.

The defendant requested the judge to instruct the jury as follows: "1. That, as plaintiff alleges in his declaration that, before and at the time of the injury, the defendant's bull was wild and vicious, and was unsafe to be led through the public streets, and the defendant knew the same, the plaintiff, in order to maintain this action, must prove that the bull was wild and vicious before and at the time of the alleged injury, and was unsafe to be led through the streets unless confined, and that the defendant had such previous knowledge of the wild and vicious habits and inclinations of said bull. 2. That the defendant is not liable for the injuries wilfully committed by his bull unless the plaintiff proves that the defendant had actual notice of the habits and inclinations of the bull to commit the injury complained of, and that, having such notice, he did not use reasonable care in taking care of said bull. 3. That if the plaintiff, when he saw the servant on the ground, and the bull goring him, and knew the bull was dangerous, and, knowing the dangerous character of said bull, made an attack on the bull, or went so near him that the bull could attack him, he was guilty of contributory negligence. 4. That if the plaintiff knew, or had reasonable cause to believe, that it was dangerous to go to the assistance of the servant, when the bull had him down and was goring him, and did so, it was...

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